Mount Tarawera, New Zealand 1886- Farewell to the Pink and White Terraces


Rift with deposits from 1886 appearing bright red (1)

Rift with deposits from 1886 appearing bright red (1)

One of the most remarkable seismic events of New Zealand history occurred on the night of June 10, 1886. Signs of the destructive eruption came in the form of earthquakes just an hour before (1). Sometime between 1:30 and 2:00am, Mount Wahanga, first to produce a pyroclastic surge, erupted and was shortly followed by Mount Tarawera and the mountain’s twin cone Ruawahia (1).

After extensive research, the fissure eruption is said to have been an extraordinary basaltic Plinian eruption- characterized by its short warning time and sometimes neglected precursors (1). The caldera cluster that Mount Tarawera belongs to is the Okataina Caldera Complex (1).

Mount Tarawera, June 10 1886 (1)

Mount Tarawera, June 10 1886 (1)

Although the volcanic eruption was responsible for the death of approximately 150 people, among the event’s victims were the Pink and White Terraces- said to be the ‘eighth wonder of the world’(2). This tourist attraction of the 1880s was destroyed in the wake of the disaster (3). The terraces became a crater and steamed for years after the 1886 eruption. The area filled with water and eventually and became Lake Rotomahana.

As discussed in class, beautiful regions with stunning natural phenomena, such as the Pink and White Terraces, create a tourist lure to the naturally hazardous regions- putting citizens and visitors alike in danger (3). Although Lake Rotomahana stands in the terraces’ place, certainly the loss of the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ impacted the way in which New Zealand advertised itself to the international tourist population.

Sources: 1. Bigthink.com | 2. history-nz.org | 3. teara.govt.nz
4. Walker, G.P.L., Self, S., Wilson, L. (1984) Tarawera 1886, New Zealand – A basaltic plinian fissure eruption. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 21(1-2), 61-78. abstract

Julia W.

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